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Bioethics

(Bio)technologies, human identity, and the Medical Humanities

Introducing two journal special issues and a conference Written by Alberto Giubilini Two special issues of the journals Bioethics and Monash Bioethics Review will be devoted to, respectively, “New (Bio)technology and Human Identity” and “Medical Humanities in the 21st Century” (academic readers, please consider submitting an article). Here I would like to briefly explain why… Read More »(Bio)technologies, human identity, and the Medical Humanities

Banning Cigarettes, Paternalism, Liberty and Harm: Clearing the Smoke

Media headlines in the UK are widely reporting Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a proposal to ban smoking for younger generations. Under the proposal, the legal age of smoking would increase by one year every year so that, eventually, no-one would be able to buy tobacco.

The proposal has proved to be controversial, and it has prompted a number of different arguments. This is unsurprising; the proposal represents a classic conflict between individual well-being, liberty, and third-party interests. As the BBC reports, some commentators have also highlighted an apparent inconsistency in Sunak’s own position, since he recently pushed back part of the government’s anti-obesity strategy, because of “people’s right to choose”. Again, the BBC reports that Sunak’s own response to this consistency argument has been that there is an important difference between the two policy positions, because ‘there is no healthy level of smoking’, whilst one can enjoy unhealthy foods as part of a healthy diet.

However, the claim that there is ‘no healthy level of smoking’ can be used to respond to this consistency argument and support the proposed smoking ban in quite different ways. Whether we support or oppose the proposal, it is crucial to be clear about the precise moral arguments that both supporters and opponents are making.

One useful way to begin is by thinking about whether or not the proposed ban is paternalistic.

Read More »Banning Cigarettes, Paternalism, Liberty and Harm: Clearing the Smoke

Finding Meaning in the Age of Neurocentrism – and in a Transhuman Future

 

 

Written by Mette Leonard Høeg

 

Through the ordinary state of being, we’re already creators in the most profound way, creating our experience of reality and composing the world we perceive.

Rick Rubin, The Creative Act

 

Phenomenal consciousness is still a highly mysterious phenomenon – mainly subjectively accessible, and there is far from scientific consensus on the explanation of its sources. The neuroscientific understanding of the human mind is, however, deepening, and the possibilities of technologically and biomedically altering brain and mind states and for engineering awareness in technological systems are developing rapidly. Read More »Finding Meaning in the Age of Neurocentrism – and in a Transhuman Future

How Brain-to-Brain Interfaces Will Make Things Difficult for Us

Written by David Lyreskog

Four images depicting ‘Hivemind Brain-Computer Interfaces’, as imagined by the AI art generator Midjourney.
‘Hivemind Brain-Computer Interfaces’, as imagined by the AI art generator Midjourney

 

A growing number of technologies are currently being developed to improve and distribute thinking and decision-making. Rapid progress in brain-to-brain interfacing, and hybrid and artificial intelligence, promises to transform how we think about collective and collaborative cognitive tasks. With implementations ranging from research to entertainment, and from therapeutics to military applications, as these tools continue to improve, we need to anticipate and monitor their impacts – how they may affect our society, but also how they may reshape our fundamental understanding of agency, responsibility, and other concepts which ground our moral landscapes.Read More »How Brain-to-Brain Interfaces Will Make Things Difficult for Us

Abortion in Wonderland

By Charles Foster

 

 

Image: Heidi Crowter: Copyright Don’t Screen Us Out

Scene: A pub in central London

John: They did something worthwhile there today, for once, didn’t they? [He motions towards the Houses of Parliament]

Jane: What was that?

John: Didn’t you hear? They’ve passed a law saying that a woman can abort a child up to term if the child turns out to have red hair.

Jane: But I’ve got red hair!

John: So what? The law is about the fetus. It has nothing whatever to do with people who are actually born.

Jane: Eh?

That’s the gist of the Court of Appeal’s recent decision in the case of Aidan Lea-Wilson and Heidi Crowter (now married and known as Heidi Carter). Read More »Abortion in Wonderland

There Is No Such Thing As A Purely Logical Argument

Written By Mette Leonard Høeg

This blogpost is a prepublication draft of an article forthcoming in THINK.

Etching by J.F.P. Peyron, ca. 1773

It is well-known that rational insight and understanding of scientific facts do not necessarily lead to psychological change and shifts in intuitions. In his paper “Grief and the inconsolation of philosophy” (unpublished manuscript), Dominic Wilkinson sheds light on this gap between insight and emotions as he considers the potential of philosophy for offering consolation in relation to human mortality. More specifically, he looks at the possibility of Derek Parfit’s influential reductionist definition of personal identity for providing psychological consolation in the face of the death of oneself and of others. In Reasons and Persons, Parfit argues that personal identity is reducible to physical and psychological continuity of mental states, and that there is no additional fact, diachronic entity or essence that determines identity; and he points to the potential for existential liberation and consolation in adopting this anti-essentialist perspective: “Is the truth depressing? Some might find it so. But I find it liberating, and consoling. When I believed that my existence was such a further fact, I seemed imprisoned in myself. My life seemed like a glass tunnel, through which I was moving faster every year, and at the end of which there was darkness. When I changed my view, the walls of my glass tunnel disappeared. I now live in the open air.”

Read More »There Is No Such Thing As A Purely Logical Argument

The Non-Rationality of Radical Human Enhancement and Transhumanism

Written by David Lyreskog

 

The human enhancement debate has over the last few decades been concerned with ethical issues in methods for improving the physical, cognitive, or emotive states of individual people, and of the human species as a whole. Arguments in favour of enhancement, particularly from transhumanists, typically defend it as a paradigm of rationality, presenting it as a clear-eyed, logical defence of what we stand to gain from transcending the typical limits of our species.Read More »The Non-Rationality of Radical Human Enhancement and Transhumanism

Nudges and Incomplete Preferences

Written by Sarah Raskoff

(Post is based on my recently published paper in Bioethics

Nudges are small changes in the presentation of options that make a predictable impact on people’s decisions. Proponents of nudges often claim that they are justified as paternalistic interventions that respect autonomy: they lead people to make better choices, while still allowing them to choose for themselves. A classic example is changing the location of food items in a cafeteria so that healthier choices are more salient. The salience of healthy foods predictably leads people to select them, even though they are still free to select the unhealthy options, too.

Nudges have become increasingly popular, but there are many objections to their widespread use. Some allege that nudges do not actually benefit people, while others suspect that they do not really respect autonomy. Although there are many ways of making sense of this latter concern, in a recent paper, I develop a new version of this objection, which takes as its starting point the observation that people often have incomplete preferences.Read More »Nudges and Incomplete Preferences